Orange: Volume 1

9781626923027_manga-orange-1-primary.jpgNaho Takamiya has a secret. She has received a letter from herself, ten years in the future. Naho’s future self implores her to value and support her new friend, Kakeru Naruse. Naho of the future reveals a number of regrets and offers suggestions to improve how certain situations pan out. In doing so, Naho believes she will be able to save Kakeru’s life.

Orange: Volume 1 is a realistic fiction manga with a sci-fi twist, written by Ichigo Takano. It follows the life of Naho Takamiya and her friends as they go through their eleventh grade year of highschool. Scenes cut between future and present Naho and her friends.

Naho is a lovable and friendly character. She is incredibly empathetic, always putting her friends and family first and working hard to contribute to her classroom culture. Naho’s friends, Hiroto, Takako, Saku, Rio, and Azusa are fun, energetic, and believable as a group of friends who have grown up together.

Naho often struggles with taking risks and her fear of embarrassment. A firm belief that doing so will help her friend helps her to overcome these fears. The storyline of friends working to prevent the suicide of Kakeru is relevant to the lives of todays’ teens, as suicide is the cause of about 20% of deaths in teens ages 15 – 19. Even in Ontario, a huge percentage of teens are diagnosed with mental illness. Despite these heavy topics being the backdrop, Takano keeps the story and characters bright and uplifting. The story is a balanced blend of heartbreaking and sweet.

Orange is appropriate for ages 12 – 17, though older readers will also enjoy the story and characters. Manga and graphic novels are quick, popular reads with teens and young adults. Orange has also been made into a beautifully animated anime series.


I give Orange: Volume 1 5 flashlights. Despite not personally being a manga reader, I fell in love with the characters and their mission. The artwork and dialogue is gentle and subtle, the perfect reflection of Naho’s character.

Teens who enjoy Orange: Volume 1 might also enjoy A Silent Voice, by Yoshitoki Oima. The manga focuses on another topic that remains close to the heart of teens: bullying. Shoya, the main character, is a bored student who tries to bring excitement to his life. When a new girl, Shoko, is transferred to his school, she becomes a natural target due to her hearing aids. A Silent Voice loudly crashes through the story, where Orange is slower paced and gentle. Both stories, however, are simultaneously tragic and heartwarming. A Silent Voice is a seven volume series and was made into an anime movie, released in September 2016.


Piggins and the Royal Wedding

51qpp1ea2pl-_sx258_bo1204203200_Piggins and the Royal Wedding is a mini British mystery written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Jane Dyer. This picture storybook was published in 1988 as part of the Piggins series, which follow the butler Piggins and his employers, the Reynard family, as he solves mysteries within their social circle. Parents who are fans of Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs will find the family / staff dynamics familiar.

In Piggins and the Royal Wedding, the Reynard family has, of course, been invited to a royal wedding. The two oldest children even have jobs to do! Trixy is to be the flower girl, and Rexy the ring bearer. Unfortunately, the wedding ring goes missing right before the wedding and Rexy is blamed. Piggins arrives to solve the mystery and find the thief, and the wedding continues without further complication.

Piggins and the Royal Wedding is rich with detailed illustrations, from lofty cathedral ceilings with stained glass windows to city streets with busy crowds. There are plenty of details for your kids to point out and discover, including a side mystery to solve.

The story is bursting with rare words that aid in literacy development. On the second page alone, the words “butler”, “petticoat”, “cathedral”, “handkerchief”, “gallantly”, “fondly”, “stickpin”, and “bonnet” are found. Whew!

Within the whole Piggins series, crime is punished and those who help solve the crime – Piggins – are rewarded. In the case of the Royal Wedding, Piggins is even given a medal by the Reynard family as a gift for solving the crime.

To give context to your kids, you might remind them of a wedding you recently attended together, or let them play with a costume jewelry ring.

Piggins and the Royal Wedding “dollhouse” style illustrations.

The Royal Wedding offers a huge array of post-reading activities. You might set up a small
scavenger hunt for your older children, or perhaps name or count the objects within the illustrations with younger readers. You might ask, “Can you find Piggins?” or “Where is the kitchen?” in the “dollhouse” style illustrations, like the one shown on the right.

Piggins and the Royal Wedding is ideal for ages 4 – 7, with its simple plot, extensive vocabulary, and black and white morality.

The Royal Wedding gets four flashlights for Dyer’s intricate illustrations and the excellent introduction to mystery stories.


Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? is written by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle. This complex concept book features a cast of colourful zoo animals who have a whole lot to say. It was published in 1991 as a successor to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You Hear?, also by Martin and Carle.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear is a small board book with easy to turn pages and bright illustrations. The pictures stand out against the white space, and the text is clear and straightforward. The story begins by asking, “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, what do you hear?” and answering “I hear a lion roaring in my ear”. The book continues in this fashion, with excellent rhythm and repetition.

There are plenty of expressive and obscure words to help develop your child’s vocabulary: trumpeting, bellowing, yelping. The repetition allows for easy
interaction with an older child, with only three words changing per page. Each page begs the child to imitate an animal’s cry as a response to “What do you hear?”. Children will love shouting responses to additional questions you might ask, such as, “Can you hiss like a boa constrictor?” or “What does a walrus bellowing sound like?”.9780805092455-in03

Polar Bear, Polar Bear oozes energy and colour. The book is ideal for ages 6 – 9 months and older with its rhythmic language, repetition, and simple illustrative style. Ages 24-36 months will enjoy the interaction Polar Bear, Polar Bear so easily encourages.

Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr. are legendary in the children’s book world, and for good reason. I give Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? five flashlights for its vibrant colours, simple theme, and exciting language.